Freeway Loops or Street Networks?

Mary Newsom of the Charlotte Observer, writing on her blog "The Naked City", posted this thorough argument against completion of Charlotte's 485 outer ring freeway. Newsom addresses a range of issues, from the sprawl-inducing effects of freeway building, to the alternative transportation projects that could be funded with the $220 million or more that outer ring completion will cost.

Alternative strategies, including transit, rail, and serious investment in street network connectivity are making headway in transportation policy, including the federal stimulus legislation and the State of Virginia's street connectivity rules.

Ultimately, however, there is a political question at hand -- and the ample comments to Newsom's post show just how hot that political question can be. Charlotte area transportation planners have historically been reluctant to oppose transportation projects backed by politicians, and as Newsom reports, there is a general consensus among area politicians that 485 should be "finished."

Bringing up the discussion in blogs and other forums will give decision makers a real sense of how divided views on freeway building are in their communities. Meanwhile, it will be important for planners and others to speak up more freely, and to find ways to demonstrate concretely the effectiveness of street networks and transit improvements as measures to relieve congestion and promote economic development.


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